Monday, March 25, 2013

Book of the Week Ironskin by Tina Connolly

This amazing debut novel combines elements of Jane Eyre, "Beauty and the Beast," and more in a gothic tale set in a steampunk world. Jane Eliot’s face was horribly disfigured in the war against the fey. She wears an iron mask to hide the horrible injury and to keep it from affecting anyone who looks upon it. When Jane loses her teaching position and her sister makes an advantageous marriage, Jane accepts a job as governess to Dorie, the child of a prominent artist whose wife had been possessed by a fey when pregnant leaving the child afflicted with the curse of telekinesis. The house is a huge crumbling mansion on the edge of a dangerous wood.  Jane’s job is to teach Dorie to use her hands rather than her mind to move things and the five-year old has no intention of doing so in scenes reminiscent of the process Anne Sullivan used in teaching Helen Keller. The master of the house is an artist who crafts masks for well-to-do women. The masks hanging near his studio in the ruined part of the manor are hideous but the women who visit him are beautiful. Poule, the half Dwarvish butler, adds another viewpoint on the conflict between the humans and fey. The eerie sense of impending disaster grows as Jane comes to love both her charge and her employer.

Gothic tales were quite popular in the 1960s and in the late 18th century. Could they be making a comeback? Are they the next “big thing”? Readers who were fond of the Brontes, or of more recent gothics such as Juliet Dark’s Fairwick Chronicles that started with The Demon Lover or Caitlin Kittredge’s Iron Codex that started with The Iron Thorn will love this.

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